Google+ Invades The Android 4.4 “KitKat” Phone App: What It Means For Businesses & People
Practically no one has a phone with Google’s latest Android 4.4 operating system on it yet. But the system, nicknamed KitKat, will shortly be spreading beyond the Nexus 5 launched last week. When it does, people with Android 4.4 will discover that their phone’s dialer has become integrated with Google+. That’ll have a big impact on how business and people are found, plus how things appear when calls come in. A primer on the change.
What’s The Phone App & The Dialer?
The “phone” part of “smartphone” is about making voice calls. Remember those? The Phone app is how you make those calls in Android.
When you click on the Phone app icon in Android 4.4, you don’t get a keypad or “dialer” appearing by default. Rather, you get a search box, then any recent calls you’ve made, then an option to open up the dialer at the very bottom. This is a big change from Android 4.3.
Here’s the comparison, what you see by default when opening up the Phone app in Android 4.3 (on the left, on a Nexus 4) and in Android 4.4 (on the right, on a Nexus 5):
You may hear that Google’s made changes to the dialer to link it to Google+, but more accurately it’s the Phone app itself that’s linked — and in particular, the real area of interest is the search box. That’s new. Before, you could search for contacts from the Phone app. Now, you can also search for businesses.
Business Search Is In The Phone App?
Yes. Consider these examples, where entering a few letters brought up matching business locations for me:
How Do I Appear In Business Search?
You need a Google Places listing. Here’s the official rundown on getting started. Also be sure to read our Google Places stories on Search Engine Land and our Google Maps stories here on Marketing Land.
How Good Is Business Search?
So far, it sucks, failing to find many businesses I’d expect. See our separate article on this, Google Places Listings Get Integrated Into Android’s Phone App — And They’re Terrible.
What’s Happening With Caller ID?
Right now, if a business calls you — and that business is also listed in Google Places — you’ll see information from its listing showing up. Here’s an example from Google:
This is called “Caller ID by Google,” which means Google is finding the information from its own data, rather than depending on data provided by a phone company. Google describes it more here. That data is from Google+ and some other partners, as listed here. Oddly, Google lists nothing about the US on that page.
What’s Happening With Google+ People Being In Caller ID?
Google said today that in early 2014, people who have verified a phone number and turned discovery on will have their names and pictures from their Google+ listings appear if they call someone from an Android 4.4 phone, or if someone calls out on an Android 4.4 phone to one, assuming the standard Phone app hasn’t been changed.
The Standard Phone App Can Be Changed?
Yes. Makers like Samsung might use their own phone app. The changes in Android 4.4 should only happen for makers that decide to use some or all of the default functionality that Google is providing.
So Not All Android Phones Phones Will Have This?
Right. Not all Android phones will act this way.
What Phones Have It Now & Will Get It?
The Nexus 5 has it now. That’s it. The Nexus 4 and “Google Play” editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One will be getting it within weeks, Google has said. Beyond that, it depends on whether handset makers and carriers decide they want to implement the new dialer, to my understanding.
I Thought Android Contacts Already Used Google+
Many phones will allow you to import contact information from Google+ or even Facebook, so that contacts you have numbers for are shown alongside their social media information. But that only works for people you know and have established contact with. This change means anyone who calls you, or who you call, will be identified based on Google+ information — even if you didn’t know each other before.
I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Google Caller ID!
You can opt-out via this page, Google says. You’ll see any numbers associated with your Google Account — and in turn with Google+ — listed:
Don’t want those numbers showing up when you make a call? Untick the option.
Confusion & Privacy Concerns
Personally, I found preparing for the shift of my phone number being used as part of Google Caller ID hard to understand. First, I have two different Google accounts. One I use for Google+. The other, I don’t — it’s a Google Apps account I use only for sending email under my own domain name.
My Google Apps account, which isn’t linked to any Google+ account, had several phone numbers listed. One of them, I don’t even know how that number got associated with my account. I can guess. The number is for a SIM card of a review unit of a phone I’m testing. At some point, turning on that unit and linking it to my Google account caused me to become part of this new Google Caller ID system.
I’m sure Google asked in some fine print along the way about doing this. But it was still a surprise to see this number ticked “on” by default.
That leads to more confusion. Technically, Google is showing people information in its caller ID from Google Profiles, not Google+. But Google Profiles are part of Google+. So if you don’t have Google+, is your number used even if that tickbox is left filled?
Meanwhile, my other account that does have Google+ enabled has NO numbers listed with it, which I found odd. After adding a number to my profile there, I still didn’t get it listed on the “Phone Numbers” page shown above, so I can’t tell if it will be used as part of Google Caller ID or not.
I’m guessing not. But its extremely confusing. Indeed, consider that the Google+ Profile page has these controls for the phone number you list there:
It’s possible that someone might set a phone number up in their Google+ profile, mark the option as “Only you” and yet still have their phone number displayed when they call people who have Android 4.4 because somewhere else is another setting they didn’t untick.
On the bright side, being part of Google Caller ID doesn’t mean that your phone number gets shown to the world, or even to people you’ve connected with, on your Google+ page. As Google’s help page explains, enabling Caller ID means your name and number is only shown to those you call or who know your number and call you, pretty similar to how regular caller ID already works.